Washington Files New Rule On Heart Procedures

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The state Department of Health filed a new rule today that could expand the number of hospitals allowed to do certain elective heart procedures. The rule covers angioplasty (balloon) and stent procedures known as percutaneous coronary interventions.

The original draft rule on the procedures was filed in July. After extensive public comment, state health officials changed the proposal to make more hospitals eligible, but retained provisions to protect the safety of patients.

"We listened carefully to what doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and patients had to say," said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. "By making a few changes, we were able to address several of those issues while remaining confident that we’re protecting patients."

The new rule has three major changes. Two of these involve planning areas. These are areas with a large enough population to support the services. The three changes are:

* In their applications, hospitals will be able to use population projections in their service areas over five years instead of three. Because of high growth in some areas, more hospitals could qualify.

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* The new rule no longer considers planning areas in cases where two hospitals might qualify, but only one can be approved. Approval would go to the hospital furthest from an existing facility that provides the service.

* The new rule expands the number of state planning areas from 12 to 14. The two new areas would qualify to have this service.

These changes could add up to six hospitals statewide that qualify to offer these heart procedures. That’s one-third of the 18 hospitals now conducting these procedures. The new proposal retains the minimum 300 annual procedures a hospital must do to qualify.

"As with other surgeries, it’s important that doctors and their hospitals repeat procedures often enough to do every one of them well," Selecky said. "Based on our research, we concluded that a minimum of 300 would be practical for hospitals and also protect patients."

It’s unknown how many hospitals will qualify under the draft rule. Hospitals interested in offering these services must apply and demonstrate that they meet the qualifications in the rule. Several hospitals testified during a July public hearing that they want to do these procedures and would apply if it seemed they’d qualify.

Because of the changes to the proposal, a second public hearing will be held. It’s scheduled for September 30 in Olympia.

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